Sign or portent…or just two buzzards
seeking shelter from the rain?
We'd just returned from a long, exhausting day which began with mid-morning dental cleaning appointments miles from here, and ended after multiple subsequent stops, nine hours later. The sky was heavily overcast, dimmed to a premature twilight, plus it was raining—not hard, but enough that you could get wet if you stood around more than a moment. Naturally, there were groceries and other items to carry in—quite a few, actually.
I opened the back door and let Moon the dog out, then stepped inside to deposit sunglasses, sodas we'd been sipping since our last stop, and a bag of prescriptions we'd picked up at the pharmacy. Myladylove and Moon went around to the rear of the Jeep and began grabbing packages. I headed back out as they came in, retrieved my own armload of stuff, hurried back in—again passing Myladylove at the door while trying to step around Moon who'd decided to sit in the precise middle of the small rear deck—in the dry, of course—and observe all these semi-desperate to-and-fro relays.
A moment later, as I rushed back out, Myladylove and I almost collided in the doorway. "You're never going to believe this," she said. "Grab your camera!"
Luckily, the camera with an attached zoom was sitting on my desk, a dozen feet from the door. Whatever it was that had her cranked—sasquatch, naked kayakers, a UFO on the rooftop—I was now armed and ready to take its picture. I darted back outside.
Myladylove was standing in the drive holding Moon. The rain was coming down harder now and both of them were quickly getting wet. Moon had picked up on the sudden level of excitement. In addition, she is—to wildly understate the actuality—definitely not a water dog, rather one who abhors getting wet. So the combination of excitement and the rain had her bucking like a bronco—all sixty-plus pounds worth. Regardless, Myladylove, whose grit and pugnaciousness is no match for even an excited terrier, had clamped down on her collar and was hanging on regardless of a potentially dislocated shoulder. She pointed with her free arm. "Over there—on the fence."
I looked, and in the dimness, and saw what first appeared to be two large black blobs sitting on the wood fence that runs along the side yard. Looking closer at the blobs, I realized they were turkey vultures. "Buzzards!" I exclaimed, and began shooting photos.
What makes this so remarkable is not that the birds were vultures. There's a roost directly across the river channel from the cottage; we see buzzards every day. And it wasn't even unusual to see a turkey vulture in the yard—they often sit in one of the trees overlooking the river.
The really weird aspect was that they were sitting no more than 25 feet away, looking at us, sort of idly watching…and didn't seem in the least concerned or on the verge of becoming spooked. Normally, our resident vultures retain a decorous distance between us and them—and 25 feet is at least four times closer than any previous encounter. Moreover, we had not come upon them—they'd sailed in and settled on the fence in full view of Myladylove and a bouncing dog…and continued to sit as I took my shots.
Weird behavior…even for buzzards!
[Re. the photo: As I mentioned, because of the overcast, the light level was very low, almost twilight. The fence where the big birds were sitting is located under a huge, centuries-old sycamore—and even on the brightest days is always in deep shadow. My neighbor's lot, beyond the fence, is open, with willows on the background. I couldn't use a flash without risking spooking the vultures, which I didn't want to do. I was also too dumb to really boost up the ISO. With the photo-editing software I have, I can't crank up the light on the birds without also cranking up the light throughout the image—so what you see is the open area of the neighbor's yard looking unnaturally bright, just to give a bit of detail to the birds in the deep, dark shadows atop the fence. It was really much, much darker out. The rain is really coming down, too, which is also not apparent in the picture. Not much of a photo, frankly, but the best of the lot. Guess I was more excited about seeing my beloved buzzards at close range than I thought.]